Do you ever go to bed at night with the feeling that you've just been on an all day roller coaster, with little more than a well worn blanket between your posterior and the cold, hard metal of reality? Bouncing up and down for five minutes is exciting. Doing it for sixteen hours makes you want to spend the next decade soaking your bruised bones in the first hot tub that you can find.
Of course, unless you've just spent all day at the amusement park with an unruly herd of small children, the roller coaster ride we're talking about here is probably more mental and emotional than physical. Turmoil in personal relationships, mental exhaustion at work, and the stress and strain of time management that never happened can leave you feeling like a passenger on a runaway train. The only problem is that you're the one who was supposed to be driving. Try explaining that to your insurance agent when it's time to pick up the pieces and file a claim.
When you consider just how complicated the human machine is, let alone the ever changing state of life with which it interacts, it's downright amazing how many people live their lives with the carefree abandon of someone who's just pushed the Auto Pilot button. Although I don't recall any buttons and switches being advertised as standard equipment for the human experience, I'd be willing to bet that if there is in fact a big, red button, it's labeled Eject. That would at least explain some of the driving I see in morning traffic.
Nonetheless, people often live their lives from day to day, responding reflexively to whatever they encounter and giving little thought to the consequences of their actions or the catalysts that control them. Having spent a fair amount of time on the road back in the carefree days of a rock & roll musician, I can say with confidence that I know exactly what happens when your attention drifts and you let go of the wheel. Bad things.
When you live with little or no self discipline, you're not really in control of your life. You're a passenger. There is a distinct difference between developing the flexibility to go with the flow and lack of control. Plants that can bend survive high winds. Those with shallow roots do not. Allowing yourself to be blown about by the tides of fortune will eventually turn your life into a scattered wreck. Worse still, all the other plants will laugh at you.
There's more than one way to lose your grip. Living without conscious intent is among the obvious, but self indulgence in your problems is one that's easy for even strong people to fall into. Everyone goes through rough spots from time to time, and it's a struggle to keep your balance when this happens. However, if you allow yourself to give in to unpleasant emotional states and embrace them, you are once again not at the wheel. Your emotions are, and as any good insurance agent will tell you, they're notoriously bad drivers. Don't ask about the rates.
Fortunately, the solution to these problems is deceptively simple. Although you can't control every single aspect of life, you can certainly control your attitude and actions. It's a simple, three step process.
First, you must know exactly who you want to be, and what life you want to live. Next, make a serious commitment to yourself that this is the person you are going to be. Finally, spend a few minutes each morning and dedicate yourself to living up to this ideal in your daily activities.
These three steps will naturally generate a lot of additional tasks, but they will get your hands back on the wheel every time. Life's more fun when you control the journey. The best way to ensure that is to do the driving yourself.